And so my stage 2 naivety began…the White Company illusion. I perused catalogue images of beautiful white and soft grey nurseries with babies dressed in fresh white cotton and Mother’s looking serene dressed in luxury cashmere of dove grey. Surely this is what it will be like when Gracie arrives, so I’ll take one of everything please. Pah!! Wrong, wrong, wrong! What’s even more ridiculous is that I have friends who had already had babies by then, and whilst their lives were wonderful, and they are all strong accomplished women and mothers, they certainly didn’t waft around Earth Mother style in floaty white linen dresses!
Stage three naivety kicked in when I wrote my birthing plan. This turned out to be an exercise in opposites! The expectation of a drug free, relaxing water birth was most definitely wrong again!! And I salute any woman who has managed to achieve it.
My expectations second time around are much more realistic. This time, I have experience on my side and hopefully a little wisdom that has been born out of my airhead naive approach systematically failing first time around!
This time, however my naivety of the birth has been replaced a little with fear, as my birth with Grace certainly didn’t go to plan and there were elements of that time that still haunt me. I’m fearful that things might go wrong again, however I am more self assured that my body and mind are firmly set in reality this time. I gave birth to our beautiful Grace last time with unexpected curve balls, so I can do it again this time with a little experience in my corner.
When our little Ruby is born we will be parents to a 2 year old and a newborn, so obviously I am concentrating on everyone who is telling me that having children with such an age gap is great! No problems to anticipate here! Surely, having a new born and a toddler at the same time is going to be an absolute doddle. Now where is that White Company magazine, as I’m sure I saw a lovely white linen dress that I could wear coming home from the hospital?!! (Seriously, there’s no hope for me).
Reality of Motherhood: That’s it is wonderful, exhausting, trying, scary, and the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Everyday Motherhood brings me a new challenge and a new joy. Our Daughter is an absolute gift and I adore spending my time with her. Being a Mother has taught me that I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be, but that it’s also ok to ask for help. I’ve learned that some days, you just have to work those food smears into a fashion statement and that it’s ok to dry shampoo your hair for the third day running!!
After a further 24 hours in hospital, we finally brought Grace home properly and thankfully after that all was well. I just had to learn and accept that it was more than ok that breastfeeding hadn’t worked, so out came the breast pumps and the stage of the milking mama began!!
My naivety really hit home in respect of how I just hadn’t prepared mentally for the first few weeks after giving birth. I think that because we had spent such a long time trying for our little miracle, I felt that I couldn’t be honest with myself and those around me, that actually, in those early weeks, I was struggling emotionally. It didn’t help that my labour had been a little traumatic and long and I was exhausted from 3 days sleep deprivation before our Princess had even been born. This coupled with Grace and I being unable to breastfeed, and her having to be readmitted to hospital all compounded the hormonal struggle that is the baby blues. Thankfully, this stage was over quickly, but I certainly wish that I had prepared better for this reality of early Motherhood that can momentarily cloud the joy of being at home with your newborn.
The best/worst advice: Interestingly, some of the best and worst advice came in the form of the same sentence “Trust your instincts.” What bloody instincts?!?! Despite reading every damn baby book going, I still felt woefully unprepared for all the curve balls newborns throw at you, and if an answer to my questions couldn’t be found by flicking manically through ‘What to Expect’ or after a crazy google search which often resulted in me being momentarily convinced that either myself and/or Grace had contracted some kind of tropical disease in urban Bolton, I would spiral into a mini melt down and take Grace to the walk in centre, where I fear I may now be at risk of being listed as a Munchausen syndrome by proxy mother!!
Thankfully, I have been surrounded by wonderful calmer women who have done all this before, and were there to tell me to stop being crazy and all was fine, and actually, as our Daughter grew and we grew to know her, those instincts strangely did kick in, and I now consider myself part witch with my amazing mother senses!!
One mother friend gave me some really sound advice which was firstly, to stop reading all the stupid baby books and secondly to try and carve some time for yourself and your husband, as it’s easy to let this slip by whilst you adjust to being in your new roles of Mummy and Daddy.
Finding time to be a couple has been a challenge at times, especially in those early months, when in reality you may be eating together, or cuddling on the sofa but neither of you are quite present in the moment, and are simply trying not to fall asleep on one another, or hit each other over the head with a pan because one of you has woken the baby by mistake! Thankfully after those first few crazy months, we made a conscious effort to make some proper time for each other, and I consider myself to be the luckiest woman in the world to have such a wonderful husband, when I’m not imagining his head popping off because he can’t seem to change a nappy without asking me to help of course!!
One friend also advised me to take a photograph of my vagina and stick it on the fridge, as it would never ever look the same again! This advice had me in hysterics when I first heard it, however after a ventouse delivery and a 3rd degree tear, I wish I had taken a little more heed of what she was saying. Not sure visitors to the house would have appreciated the addition to the family pics though!!
The best parts of being a mother: Everything! Cliched I know, but even the most challenging days can bring you out the other side having learned something about yourself. The pure joy that your child brings you makes everything worth it. Watching your family grow is a gift and one that I never thought I would have, so I treasure it with my whole heart. Watching my family grow and the new roles we have all taken makes me a very proud woman.
Has becoming a mother changed you? Yes, in every way. I am stronger, more self-assured (well at least I am now after my crazy first few months of being a new Mother), I take less shit and love harder than I ever thought possible. I’m also a bit more brain dead, as I don’t think baby brain has ever left me, and now I have it again!! I’ve also become braver, and feel like my life’s priorities are starting to be in the right order. After having Grace, and my maternity leave came to an end, I made the difficult decision not to return to my work in Insolvency, but instead took a leap of faith and embarked on starting a photography career, which enables me to finally be creative, and is something which can allow me to spend quality time with my children, and gives me the creative outlet that I’ve needed for a long time.
I am still me – Bec, and I am still Bec the wife, the friend, the daughter, the granddaughter, the sister, the niece, the auntie… but I am also Bec the mother and this additional role in my life has brought me rewards that I never thought were possible.
Hopes for your family: To safely bring our new Daughter Ruby into the world and enjoy watching her and our family grow and blossom. What advice would you offer to new and expectant mums: Don’t be tough on yourself. Motherhood is hard, but it’s also wonderful, and you are doing a great job. Ask for help when you need it, stock up your freezer, and it’s ok to wear pjs all day and just gaze at the wonder that is your newborn, oh and buy lots of dry shampoo!!
Also, never read the Wonder Weeks – totally terrifying thunder clouds, and maybe consider taking that photograph…as it really doesn’t look the same afterwards!!
Rebecca Royle is a photographer based in Bolton, Greater Manchester and specialises in children and family photography. Her website can be found at www.rebeccaroylephotography.co.uk